Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Apgar Traverse

Last week we celebrated the Life of our friend Adam Lawton, who 3 years ago on January 6th passed away in an avalanche in Canada. Adam loved being on his skis. He loved pushing himself to exhaustion. He embraced how the mountains can make the human body suffer. In honor of Lawton, Stefan and I chose an objective that He would appreciate. A ski tour that did not include any glorious ski runs, just a long day in the mountains. Where we suffered. I call this tour Exercise Ridge.

The Apgar mountains are a small chain of that sit between the North and Middle forks of the Flathead River. They lie on the Southern border of Glacier National Park. They are not as big or impressive as their neighbors. In comparison the are pretty small. The total distance is approximately 12 miles of walking and around 6,000 feet of elevation gain including the ups and downs along the ridge. There are two Lookout towers that mark the start and finish of the traverse. We chose to go from Apgar Lookout to the higher Huckleberry Lookout. Finishing with a 3,000 foot ridge to ski to our car parked on the North fork road. 

West Face of Heavens Peak
Rarely skied Mega Line
The suffering did not take long to begin. Once we left the Apgar Lookout trail we found out that things were not going to be easy. The fresh snow was not supportable enough to cover the hundreds of down trees and branches. Sometimes it felt as though I was skinning through quick sand while Goblins were trying to pull me under. Maybe they were. I could not see my skis. The initial 2,700 foot climb to get onto Exercise Ridge took us around 3 hours. It was arguous skinning, but we were not to be denied. 

Crossing MacDonald Creek which flows into the Mighty Flathead

Once on the Ridge everything was O.K. again. We began moving along quickly, making up for lost time. The views of the terrain dropping from the ridge were impressive as were the sights of the Southern Park Peaks around Lake McDondald. The hard to get to ski runs made us wish we had more time in the day to sample, but we had a long way to go. We trotted along, mostly with our skins on even for the short descents. Our longest descent from the ridge was 1,000 feet. We ripped skins for this and at the bottom quickly transitioned back to skinning up. With the shortness of daylight this time of year there was not much hanging out during the tour, just progression onward.

Stoked to be above the brush and on the ridge,

Lots of ups and down on the Ridge

Beautiful Scenery and some good looking terrain.

An impressive crown left after the big dump last week.

Too bad we didn't have time to sampling some of the goods back there.
A look at where we were traversing.

Exercise Ridge was longer than it seemed. The 8 summit points we topped tired our legs and watching my watch was a bit anxiety provoking. We crested the final summit just as the sun dipped below the horizon. We quickly transitioned at Huckleberry Lookout and committed to our intended ridge 3,000 feet above the Camas road, which is closed in winter. Headlights moving South on the North fork road gave us hope that this Epic adventure would soon be over.

Looking back to where we had came from.

The never ending Ridge traverse.
Wheres the lookout.

Pretty worked.
The skiing began great and we carved figure 8s above supportable frozen powder. Then the ski adventuring became real as light became darkness and the open ridge became a dense alder forest. We picked our way down, side slipping, holding on to branches and sliding over down logs. This went on for awhile until it became too thick and not enough snow. We kick off the skis and walk down to the valley floor. It wasn't over. We shouldered, threw, dragged and whipped our skis through even more dense alder brush and down logs. I cursed a lot and hated myself for awhile. This was the cause of suffering. I finally crawled up a small mound headwall and onto a flat open surface, the road. 11 hours after beginning this sufferfest.  


Monday, August 11, 2014

Mt Sir Donald- Rogers Pass

I have wanted to climb Sir Donald since my first drive through Canadas Glacier Provincial Park over the legendary Rogers Pass. On my first visit with Gaelen three years ago the Classic ridge climb seemed daunting and committing so we climbed Mt Tupper instead across the highway. Gazing over at Sir Donald's knife ridge we knew we had to come back.

Gaelen took the train from Seattle to recuperate from a wrist injury she obtained while playing Frisbee and rafting. She iced and rested. After four days of this she felt confident enough to sign up to solo 3,000 feet of 5.4 with me on Sir Doanld. We left on Thursday, driving to Rogers Pass to obtain both the discovery pass and a back country permit. We packed up in the parking lot of the Asulkan Valley campground and headed for Sir Donald by 7:30 p.m. 

We bivied below to Uto/ SirDonal col on a beautiful meadow with running water and an Alpine Lake below. A total of three parties were up there to try the ridge the next day. We woke up and noticed that everyone had already left to begin the climb. We ate and left camp by 7 a.m. When we reached the col by 8 the other parties were making their way up the ridge, it looked marvelous. 

We began soloing wearing harnesses and helmets, carrying a rope in my pack and six long runners with Gaelen. The soloing was so much fun. We just climbed and talked and talked and climbed. It was so different than other climbing days together. It was a blast. The ridge went on for a long time and was so much fun that we actually didn't want it to end. The next false summit was a relief instead of dread because of the enjoyment. We didn't pull out the rope for any part of the climb and passed three parties on route, summiting from the col in 2 hours 15 minutes.

We chose to descend the SE ridge and cross below the summit on loose class 3 scree. This way down is tricky and a little dangerous because of the uncomfortable feeling of loose scree and crossing below climbers above on the ridge. Once we made it back to the ridge proper we continued down climbed to the rappels above the west face. We could have down climbed the entire ridge without using our rope, but decided to try out the rappels because we brought one. We walked back into the meadow camp by 230 p.m. After a refreshing nudey dip in the lake we hiked back to the car. 
We did the approach the evening before.
Camped on a sweet meadow below the col
with a small Alpine Lake and running water.

From the col.
We left the meadow at 7 and climbed up
to the col and begun the ridge climb by 8 a.m.

Stoked to solo 3,000 feet of 5.4

Fun moves All the way!

Great exposure All the way!

Selfie on the ridge.

Passing a party of 2 ladies from Squamish.
The yellow rap anchors mark the new and improved rappels

Awesome Views Everywhere!

The ridge Proper.
Solid Rock all the way.

A little break in exposure before the summit.

Where we go skiing in the winter.
I love Canada!

Summit cone : 2 hrs 15 mins.

Happy Buffalo!

Sapphire Glacier and Rampart Mountain in the background

Rapping the West face.
We brought the rope just for this reason.
6 raps.

The Alpine Lake at camp.
Amazing treat to take a dip.

Looking back up the route.
Up the left ridge to the summit and down the lookers
right ridge across the scree face back on the west ridge.

If you like getting into breathtaking mountains and moving fast on moderate terrain, it doesn't get any better than this route. I think that it is the Best 5.4 I have ever done. You can do the entire thing in approach shoes in one day if you want (10,000 feet of hiking/ climbing total). The bivy is nice and makes for a shorter second day. This part of Canada is amazing. The climbing and skiing adventures are multiple lifetimes worth. I can't wait to get back.

= Frerk

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Mt Stuart- N Ridge, Washington Cascades

I use my car a lot. I wish I didn't. I love to explore and climb in the Rocky mountains therefore I drive to the trail heads for the convenience and instant gratification. Sometimes I will drive 600 miles to climb one mountain to return Home a couple of days later after ticking off a Classic route. This summer I am trying to use other modes of traveling to make myself feel less guilty when I do use my car for a Far from Home adventure.

Over the 4th of July weekend I took the Amtrak train from Whitefish, MT to Leavenworth, WA. The Amtrak is a comfortable way to travel. The cars are air conditioned and the seats fold all the way back for sleeping. The train was 6 hours late so instead of departing at 1045 pm, it didn't leave Whitefish station until 330 am. This is pretty common. Luckily I met some friends in town to hang out with as I learned via text messaging that the train would be delayed. I patiently waited across the street at the Great Northern Bar, putting back 1 dollar High Lifes.

After crossing 3 state borders on the rail I arrived in Leavenworth a little after noon, 8 hours later. Gaelen, Liz Rocco and I carpooled from town to the Ingalls Lake trail head to climb the North Ridge of Mt. Stuart. There are two approaches to access Mt Stuart. We felt that this approach off Bluit Pass worked well for us. You start on the south side of the mountain to access the North.

We moved well as a party of three and flashed the route in 14 hours. We hiked over three passes and crossed the Stuart Glacier putting us on the ridge proper in 6 hours. We simul-climbed to the base of the gendarme in two pitches. We climbed the gendarme in two pitches and roped up for two more pitches above before returning to simuling to the summit cone. The climbing was great and the exposure was righteous! We had a perfect day and enjoyed a cozy summit bivy. The next morning we descended the Cascadian couloir 4500 feet, up and over Longs Pass and back to the Car where cold IPAs awaited us in the cooler. God Bless America!

A look at the West Ridge of Stuart

Crossing Ingalls Lake on our way to the third and final Pass
before descending onto the Stuart Glacier

Crossing the Stuart Glacier below the intimidating N Face

The N Ridge is the sky line, starting in the couloir on the lower left of the pic

Crossing above some big cracks in approach shoes.
The girls brought ice axes and I brought crampons, but no ice axe.
Together we had a complete set of alpine tools 

Starting up the couloir to the base of the ridge.
The approach gully is way more easier than it looks from afar,
offering fun climbing on solid rock most of the way up.

I won the odds and evens game so I got to lead the two pitches to the base of the gendarme.

3 way simul climbing at its best!
We made great time so climbed the route in one push.

Liz leading the 1st crux 5.9 pitch.
Amazing lie back to stellar belay.
This is where the exposure kicked in.

Two wild ones excited about committing to getting to the top!

Rotate and see the great wide pitch on the Gendarme.
As good as it gets.

Gae getting her  lead on. More amazing rock.

Unroped again and heading for the summit cone.

This is where we got water to prepare for the summit bivy.

Gae giving Liz a little reassurance on the summit traverse

Stoke individuals. We make a great team!

A cozy bivy

Gae pointing to her next objective. Mt Raindogs.

Writing a little not in the summit register before heading down.
Some of the other adventures I have enjoyed this summer without the use of my Car have been bikepacking Glacier National Park and Packrafting on the N Fork of Flathead river. There is a great deal of adventure to be added to a trip when you don't gas up. I am more mindful of my objectives these days, but will continue to use the convenience of my Car because the experience in the mountains are too powerful for me to miss out on climbing them. These experience do come at a cost though.

-Jakeums Frerkums

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Jackson Glacier- Glacier National Park

After about a week of planning a close to home trip. We settled on some Summer skiing on the Jackson Glacier. We are the Skier Boyz and this is what we do. Welz has come up to Whitefish for a month to get some work done on his Hydrology thesis and to escape the SLC burn. We have plenty of H2O up here and Jay has been sampling it in all forms. He has influenced his ways on Stefan and I and we have broken the trend of climbing on All of our days off. 

Mt Jacksons shoulder. The Glacier is on the other side of the ridge shown

Hiking in the 7 miles to camp

Camp on Gunsight Lake w gunsight Pass in background.
Notice the 2000 foot waterfalls.
After some mountain biking and almost losing Stefan when he cased a gap jump we drove from Home through GNP on the going to the sun road. After a quick dip in Lake MacDonald we crested Logan Pass and dropped to the trail head above St. Mary Lake. We put our shit show together and got on the trail by 5:30 p.m., heading to the most concentrated area of Glaciers still existing in the park. You can see both Jackson and the Blackfoot glaciers from the road. They are receding into the highest north facing elevations and may disappear in our lifetime so I felt a urgent need to visit this special place. We hiked in 7 miles to the gun sight lake and set camp as the Full Super moon was rising.

Happy to be on skis and shorts in July

Dropping in on our first line Jackson Glacier saddle 7,800
Further down skiing the runnel lanes
We scoped the main glacier run from the road and headed there first in the morning. It starts at a saddle before the ridge climb to the summit of Jackson. We crossed under some big seracs and onto the main path leading to the summit. It felt good and comfortable to be on the skis again. We got a 1600 foot run before the glacier broke up and we climbed back up and under the seracs again. Jay spotted a nice patch that we climbed next. The climb was a lot longer than it looked from below. Its always this way on glacier terrain. Things appear closer and not as steep until you begin to climb. We got another awesome shot off Jackson's north shoulder. The run was 2,400 feet. It was a bit difficult to find our trail out and we quickly got slapped by how heinous the shwacking can be in GNP. Luckily the trail was found rather quick and we made for the Lake. We took a quick dip and hit the trail out. It was a smash and grab summer hit. 26 hours, 20 miles, 4000 feet of skiing, 500 mosquito bites, 3 Glaciers. Not a bad place to live.
Climbing up the second line off Jackson's shoulder 8,200
Blackfoot Glacier in background
Stefan finding his groove on the fine glacial corn
-Kid Buffalo